Ibsen’s A Doll House and Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex Essay

August 17, 2021 by Essay Writer

Ibsen’s A Doll House and Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex have some characteristics in common. These plays deal with two people whose lives change dramatically in a few moments as their past contains some secrets. Both Oedipus and Nora live without knowing their selves properly. Of course, the most suggestive similarity of the two plays is that recognition and reversal occur simultaneously for protagonists as they learn an important thing about themselves and this knowledge changes their life completely forcing them to leave their homes.

First, it is important to trace the parts of the plays where recognition and reversal occur. As for Oedipus, he learns all the truth and really accepts it when the shepherd tells about his past deeds and Oedipus’ past and origin. The king finally understands and exclaims, “Ah lost! At last it’s blazing clear. / Light of my days, do dark”. (Sophocles, 1996, p. 67). He learns the truth and he also understands that it is unbearable to keep living knowing the whole truth.

As far as Nora is concerned, she sees her husband’s true colors when he finds out about the loan she took. The woman sees that her husband is not the man she thought him to be. Nora tells to her husband that she was waiting for some ‘wonderful things’ to happen to see that he was the man she loved but she adds, “when the wonderful thing did not happen; then I saw you were not the man I had thought you were” (Ibsen, 2013, p. 64). The woman understands that her husband is a hypocrite who loves himself more than anyone in the world and only cares about his reputation. This makes her consider suicide or leaving home to be able to understand what to do with her life.

Importantly, recognition and reversal also have similar outcomes as the protagonists choose to leave the place where they lived in ignorance. Oedipus laments, “I am driven from my native land by my own flesh and blood. / I can return no more. I am a parricide” (Sophocles, 1996, p. 123). For Oedipus, his secluded existence is certain kind of redemption and, at the same time, an attempt to protect people from the curse he cast on his family. Nora decides to leave her husband and she stresses, “I must stand quite alone, if I am to understand myself and everything about me” (Ibsen, 2013, p. 62). The protagonist’s seclusion is an attempt to understand who she really is. She also thinks that she will protect her children if she is far from them.

It is also important to add that both protagonists committed a crime in their past. Of course, Oedipus’ crimes are much more serious than Nora’s forgery is. However, there is an important mitigating circumstance. Thus, Oedipus never knew that he killed his own father and married his own mother. Importantly, Oedipus did not intend to kill Laius but the fight started and Oedipus had to kill the man. At the same time, Nora took the loan (in an illegal way) to spend it on the trip that her husband needed to improve his health. The woman did her best to pay the debt back and forget about it.

In conclusion, it is necessary to note that the protagonists of the two plays in question find out the truth that changes their lives, as they cannot live in the same way they did. The past of Oedipus and Nora makes them see the wrongs of their lives. The two people are forced to leave their homes to come to terms with themselves. Oedipus and Nora committed some crimes and, after many years, they learnt the horrible truth about themselves. This recognition makes them immediately change their lives dramatically.

Reference List

Ibsen, H. (2013). A doll’s house. North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Sophocles. (1996). The Oedipus plays of Sophocles: Oedipus the King; Oedipus at Colonus; Antigone. New York, NY: Plume.

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